Whilst we all yearn for face-to-face jams to be back, the twice-monthly BUMS Online jams provided a new experience, and helped maintain the BUMS community.

Let’s take a look behind the scenes.

There are four parts to getting online jams together:

  1. planning the schedule of sets and open mics,
  2. video recording songs,
  3. editing videos and songsheets for uploading, and
  4. publishing recordings and displaying songsheets through Facebook in BUMS Online.

Planning

BUMS Media Manager, Jo Kunde is our Field Marshall, planning, recruiting and organising people and resources.  She starts work on future jams before the last one has even been streamed.

Jo recruits BUMS members to lead sets, act as MC and to perform open mics and run mini workshops.  She is always looking for fresh faces so contact her if you would like to volunteer. She plans the order of the sets and open mics, and develops draft scripts for the MCs.

To improve the quality of the video recordings, Jo published tips for set leaders – like check what’s behind you when you record. Last night’s washing up is not a good look, and keep the family pets out of the way! Check out Jo’s video tips on the BUMS Inc website.

Creating a set

Set leaders choose suitable songs in the same way as a normal jam, except they have to consider how they will work in an online performance. Simplicity is probably better than making a song too complicated.  For performers doing an open mic, no-one will be playing along, so you can go all out to impress. But for a jam song, you need to take a whole group of people of varying abilities on a journey through the song with you.

Each set leader videos their song(s) on a laptop, tablet or phone. For many, it has been a new experience and as Steve Sandilands has commented it can take quite a few ‘takes’ to be satisfied with the recording. A three-minute video can be over 200MB, so condensing the file (using, for example, free software called HandBrake) makes the video easier to transfer and upload. Of course, like a normal jam, songsheets with the words, chords and any other instructions are provided to go with the video.

Video editing

Jo Kunde coordinates the document and video files for the Online jam and edits the videos to make them much more professional and coherent for playing at the jam. Keryn Henderson formats songsheets and checks to make sure they are suitable for all levels of ukulele players.

Production

Now, it’s onto the BUMS Online production studio, master-minded by Andrew and Sylvia Hunt from their lounge room.

BUMS Online members can view their guided tour in Facebook.

Studio

The studio is a place of many parts.  Importantly it holds the family animals – some live and some stuffed (you’ll have to watch the video to see that). It has the stage equipped with a microphone where the live action comes from – for Sylvia as MC or Andrew playing requests. The stage — sometimes referred to as Andrew’s wardrobe — has many ukulele tshirts to provide a ukulele themed backdrop.  Watch out for Andrew’s ‘green screen’ backdrop at the next jam.  No more Tshirts but different backgrounds can be displayed.  Hawaii, Coorparoo or Ferny Grove perhaps?

‘On stage’ a mic, amplifiers and a fold back speaker run through a mixing desk to the laptop. A web camera records the stage scene live. The live part of the jam is what you see when Sylvia is MC, and when Andrew does the request spot at the end of the jam.  Andrew hopes to shortly have live performers — Linda Gough and Paul Morris from Ferny Grove may be first up on 15 July.

Managing the show

The laptop runs software called OBS which manages the sound, pre-recorded videos and live camera. It links to a projector (like in normal jams) which projects the song sheets up on the lounge room wall. The songsheets are scrolled by a nifty foot pedal — built by Andrew’s son Sam — which uses software called SmoothScroll that takes out all the jerks.

When we live stream the recorded videos, the OBS software has two screens showing the recorded performance and the songsheet.  This is what you see as a Facebook viewer.

When a song is being played, the performance video is in the top right of the screen, and the song is on the large screen.  When the song is over, the image of the performer can be dragged to the big screen for any chit-chat between songs.

Lighting

Andrew, the master of Heath-Robinson innovation, created two state-of-the-art light boxes to give the stage that professional look. The system uses a couple of down-lights from ALDI in two beer cartons (Corona and Oettinger Pils) with paper tissues fixed across the front of the box so the light is diffused and there are no shadows on the stage.

Thanks

If you compare the first online jam back in April to those in June, you will notice massive improvements in the quality of the live stream.

Thank you to all the BUMS members who have played a part in this wonderful experiment.  The success of the online jams provides a new way to connect our community, and bring others into the world of ukulele.  It’s another example of the way the ukulele can take you on a journey of new learning, frustration and fun.

Please note: You must be a member of BUMS Inc to be approved as a member of the private Facebook Group BUMS Online – Brisbane Ukulele Musicians Society (BUMS) Members. Find out how to become a BUMS Inc member on the Membership page of the BUMS Inc website.

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